Home OKC History Books Biographies He Made It Safe to Murder: The Life of Moman Pruiett
  • Error loading feed data.

Main Menu

RSS Feed


What is the most historic building in Oklahoma City?
He Made It Safe to Murder: The Life of Moman Pruiett PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 28 August 2008 05:25

By Howard K. Berry Sr., Oklahoma Heritage Association, 2001. In print.

Review: A great act of preserving Oklahoma's early day legal history has been accomplished with the recent publication of Howard K. Berry's original 1940 manuscript of the life of lawyer Moman Pruiett. Titled "He Made it Safe to Murder" (Oklahoma Heritage Association, $29.95), the 700-page book details Pruiett's sordid, yet successful career as a frontier criminal defense attorney. Also interesting is the road down which the saga has traveled.

In the 1930s, the late Howard K. Berry was a young lawyer who became acquainted with Pruiett, who was phenomenally successful in his defense of those accused of crimes. In his first 20 years of defending the accused, Pruiett won 303 acquittals in 343 cases. His only client to be sentenced to death was spared by a presidential commutation.

Berry collected the tales and stories of Pruiett's cases and entered into a contract with a publisher before World War II. However, the publisher believed too many of the subjects were still alive and, fearing libel lawsuits, the project was dropped. Pruiett took Berry's manuscript and cut nearly half the stories from it. In 1944, after Berry went off to fight in World War II, Pruiett had the Harlow Publishing Co. of Oklahoma City print the information as his autobiography, "Moman Pruiett, Criminal Lawyer."

The book has become one of the rarest for collectors of Oklahoma history books, commanding up to $1,000 for a mint-condition volume. The Oklahoma Supreme Court, in the 1950s, ruled that Berry was the true owner of the original manuscript of Pruiett's story.

Now, 40 years later, Berry's grandson, Howard K. Berry III, and family friend Richard Jones have spearheaded the publication of the full-length saga of Pruiett, the original manuscript written nearly two-thirds of a century ago. It is a publishing treasure.

Pruiett had no great admiration for the law. He simply did as he pleased as he built his reputation for having defended more murderers than anyone at that time in America history. He was a convicted felon, a fact that he used to scare opposing lawyers. Some believe Pruiett was a great defense lawyer because he identified with people in trouble with the law. He would not have been allowed to practice law in modern times because of his criminal record. Maybe that's why he was easily persuaded to defend the scourges of society, the down-and-out crowd that had no one else to look to for help.

The true stories contained in "He Made it Safe to Murder" are stranger than the finest fiction writer could weave. They range from motivated killings to defending a U.S. senator from Oklahoma for allegedly fondling a constituent in an Oklahoma City hotel room. The book is long overdue and is great reading. I only wish Berry, a capable and distinguished member of the Oklahoma bar, could have lived long enough to see his work in print.

- Bob Burke, 2001, The Oklahoman

Do you want to share a review of this book? It's easy! Simply register with an email address on the main page, then log in and leave a comment. It's that simple.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 August 2008 03:27